Gold Mining in Poor Communities: Sweet for Gold Traders, Bitter for Child Workers

December 20, 2011

While kids throughout the US were trick-or-treating for sweets during Halloween this year, 2009 Goldman Prize winner Yuyun Ismawati was busy distributing chocolate gold coins to UN delegates in Nairobi as part of her campaign to protect communities from the environmental damage and contamination that comes with small-scale gold mining, which makes deliberate use of mercury.

“Gold mining in poor communities is sweet for gold traders but bitter for children. The true price of gold will never equal the cost of brain damage, contaminated communities, and the impacts of child labor,” she said.

Citing findings from a report from the International Labour Organization, Ismawati and colleagues at IPEN urged the treaty to focus not only on reducing and eliminating the usage of mercury, but more importantly, on protecting people’s health from its damaging effects as well. According to the study , there are about 115 million children working in hazardous mines; more than half are clinically diagnosed with severe mercury poisoning.